June 24, 2018

The Playoff Experiment: Week Five

In week five of the NBA playoffs, the Boston Celtics prepared to face the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals. We also found out that Dwane Casey, who beat Brad Stevens for Coach of the Year, had been fired after the Toronto Raptors’ loss to the Cavs. I like to imagine Stevens looking at his haters like this:

via GIPHY

Game One

I heard a lot about the legend of LeBron James, but had little experience seeing it, so I was really excited to watch all the incredible star power. What I got was… unexpected. In the first quarter, the Cavs went through a scoring drought of nearly five minutes and the Celtics jumped out to a 14 point lead. I thought I would see LeBron all over every play, so I was caught off guard by the early lack of LEBROOOOOOOOONNNNNN moments. Maybe he just understands that other players need to be involved too, I thought. Boston ended the quarter doubling up the Cavs, 36-18, but I was waiting for LeBron to turn the game all the way up.

I really like Cleveland’s uniforms. The maroon and navy are a great combo and yellow makes a good accent color. I’m less into their warm-up shirts, which feature the slogan Whatever It Takes. While it’s a fairly standard “go team” mantra, it reminds me of the Imagine Dragons song so no thanks.

One of my favorite plays of the first half was a nice block by Al Horford. He’s definitely been one of my favorite Celtics to watch this postseason. He’s a team leader, he’s consistent, he hits big shots. What’s not to like?

LeBron finished with only 7 points in the first half, including just 2 in the second quarter. I was really starting to get the feeling that this was not a normal game. But how long could Boston keep a guy like him down?

As the second half started, I got curious and figured out the average age of each team’s starters. The Cavs started only one player under age 30 and the starting lineup had an average age of 32.6 years old. The Celtics were the opposite – they started only one player older than 30 and averaged just 24.8 years old. This doesn’t have a huge bearing on the game or the series, but it was interesting to note the difference in teams. It’s so impressive to me how successful the younger Celtics have been throughout the playoffs, even now that they’re facing the best player in the NBA.

Down by 26 points at half, the Cavs cut it down to 14 by the end of the third. LeBron scored more points than in the first half, but was still off the pace of his usual points per game. Don’t call it a comeback?

It was not a comeback. Boston kept making plays and soon the lead had ballooned to almost 30 points. You know what that means! With over four minutes left, the Celtics put in Iowa State’s own Abdel Nader. This brought up an issue I had from the series with the Bucks: NBA commentators, how do you still not know how to say this man’s name? I know teams have pronunciation guides. I don’t care how it’s spelled. You all learned how to say Favre and Krzyzewski so I think you can handle Abdel.

The Celtics took the first game, 108-83.

Game Two

I don’t think anyone expected another game out of LeBron like he had in the series opener and, well, they were right. LeBron came out hot from three and scored 21 points in the first quarter. He had just 15 in all of Game 1. Jaylen Brown also got off to a good start for the Celtics.

During the broadcast, they aired a commercial featuring NBA players talking about why they like watching the WNBA. I love how they respect and support their female counterparts. The ad was very cool and hopefully they get some fans who are dismissive of women’s sports to pay attention. The WNBA season kicks off on May 18th.

Things in Game 2 were noticeably more intense, which provided us a spectacular new meme of Marcus Morris yelling in the face of Tristan Thompson. Twitter did its thing and roasted Thompson with it. A large number of captions referenced his alleged cheating while his girlfriend, Khloe Kardashian, was pregnant. Personally, I think this meme is very versatile and it makes me giggle. I hope it’s not forgotten about too quickly.

Tensions continued to escalate in the fourth quarter as JR Smith pushed a defenseless Al Horford out of bounds when he was in the air. He was assessed a flagrant foul for what many, including Marcus Smart, felt was a dirty play. Smart got in his face to let him know and both players ended up with technicals. Since no one went too far and got ejected, I like that Smart had his teammate’s back. Of course, the Boston crowd could be heard as well with a “Fuck you, JR” chant that was clear as day.

Horford hit a shot soon after and stopped to flex. I haven’t seen him celebrate much so I loved it. Give me all the perfectly timed shade!

With about three minutes to go, the Celtics had a nice 12 point lead and LeBron may have taken some frustration out on a perfectly good basketball. He swatted the bejeesus out of Terry Rozier’s shot and I was YELLING. Maybe I’m alone in this, but I love a good block.

Boston pulled off the win in defense of their home court. In listening to reactions to the series so far, people obviously have a ton of respect for what LeBron can do. But I’m still a little surprised that the Celtics aren’t getting more credit. LeBron dropped 42 points on them in Game 2 and they still won. I haven’t defended Boston because I am obviously extremely new to the NBA, but in watching them for over a month now, I think they’re really good! Very rarely have they looked so out of sorts that they couldn’t get it together. Are people underestimating the Celtics? Or have I just not been properly introduced to LeBron? Either way, I think we’re in for a hell of a series.

Nicole Gustafson 27 Articles
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Nicole was born in Chicago and raised in Des Moines. She took her talents to The Iowa State University, where she earned a degree in journalism. You can find Nicole cheering on her favorite sports teams, hanging out with her dog, or finishing a Netflix marathon. Nicole is a big fan of #pitcherswhorake, fat guy TD's, and carbs. She's not a fan of mornings, winter, or vegetables and will complain to anyone who will listen.

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